top of page
  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

Dueling visions for America:  Progressives vs. Heritage Foundation  

Updated: Apr 24


Welcome to SWOT Sunday!

These dueling visions are polar opposites, not only in terms of what (policy), but in who is putting them forward, how they are being put forward, where and when (the expected timeline for execution).


The choice is clear.  I’ll present a brief description of the what/who/where/when.  Then I’ll talk about how this moment represents real progress for the left, as well as a typical divergence in how the left and right do things.


A great deal is at stake for all of us.  I’ll also throw out some ideas on what progressives, and everyone who likes this agenda better, can do to bring it closer to reality.


– What It Is

On April 18, the Congressional Progressive Caucus released its Progressive Proposition Agenda, “a vision for Congress to meet everyday Americans’ urgent needs and rebuild the American dream for the poor, working, and middle class.”


The seven-point agenda is heavily focused on economics and lighter on cultural issues, carrying echoes of the New Deal.  It is an effort to get Democrats and others more excited about voting for Joe Biden.

According to their press release, the document presents a comprehensive domestic policy legislative agenda that includes proactive, top-priority policies that lift up poor and working people.

The agenda focuses on raising wages and lowering costs; correcting the inequality in our economic, education, political systems; continuing progress on the climate crisis; and protecting and expanding Americans’ rights and freedoms. 

The policies are organized into seven areas of focus: lowering the cost of living, boosting wages and worker power, advancing justice, protecting our planet and people, making our democracy work, breaking corporations’ hold on our economy, and providing world-class public education.

It includes legislative policy proposals that Democrats can pass with congressional majorities that will deliver immediate, tangible results for everyday Americans as well as rebuild systems that have held communities back for too long. 

The policy proposals are quite detailed.  It’s not clear where they came from, though one assumes it was some combination of legislative staff, advocacy organizations, and perhaps some think tanks.

Here is a nice take from the Institute of Policy Studies on how the CPC has punched above its weight.

Progressive Proposition Agenda: Who Is Behind It

It is endorsed by the CPC, which comprises about 100 Representatives and 1 Senator, including everyone from the Squad to barely-progressive members like NY’s Dan Goldman.  That number represents a bit less than one-quarter of the total House and one-half of the Democratic/Independent membership.

It is also endorsed by a cross-section of the strongest and most prominent progressive organizations, including: 

Association of Flight Attendants (AFA)-CWA, Center for Popular Democracy, the Green New Deal Network, Indivisible, MoveOn, National Education Association (NEA), National Employment Law Project (NELP), National Immigrant Justice Center, National Nurses United, Our Revolution, People's Action, Public Citizen, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Sierra Club, Social Security Works, Sunrise Movement, United We Dream, and Working Families Party.

Progressive Proposition Agenda: How


The PPA has brought together progressive policy with elected officials/candidates and grassroots organizing to fight for the agenda.  This is exactly what needs to happen. This is a way to create a progressive brand, as well as advance progressive causes, under the Democratic umbrella. As far as I know, this has never been done. 


The only mention in the press release about what might happen next came from Maurice Mitchell from WFP, who noted, “Now it's time to put in the work and organize to make this vision a reality.”  It’s also time to raise money, identify decisionmaking structures, staff and key races, create communications materials, PR campaigns, ads, etc. Hopefully some of that is in motion. I spot-checked a couple of organizations and news coverage, and didn’t see anything further about the “how.”


Progressive Proposition Agenda: Where and When


The CPC is based in the House of Representatives, so they are focused primarily on pushing this agenda as part of the Presidential and Congressional races around the country this year.  Many progressives are still facing primary challenges this year, so hopefully they can be supported by this agenda and the CPC/partner organizations.


The CPC has indicated that winning a Democratic trifecta in DC is what they need to move this along, though they don’t explicitly say this is the goal. They don’t name any explicit goals. Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that – especially because so many Dems are far from progressive - but that would be a good start. If they win races where they bring the agenda to bear, they’ll have more power within the party. This is a long-term project, no doubt.

Project 2025 – What It Is


Where the PPA is a legislative agenda to be executed by electing the right people, Project 2025 says, “It is not enough for conservatives to win elections. If we are going to rescue the country from the grip of the radical Left, we need both a governing agenda and the right people in place, ready to carry this agenda out on Day One of the next conservative Administration.” Project 2025 is led by the Heritage Foundation (image above).


The main goal would be to execute a “sweeping expansion of presidential power over the machinery of government if voters return [Trump] to the White House in 2025,” the New York Times said.   They do also suggest some legislative changes that Congress should make.


Project 2025 says they are “systematically preparing for successful conservative governance in our nation’s capital.”  It has been working on this and the project has been funded, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, since 2021.  An NBC story describes it as “a two-pronged initiative to develop staunch conservative policy recommendations and grow a roster of thousands of right-wing personnel ready to fill the next Republican administration.”  Should Trump get re-elected, they won’t leave the staffing or policy plans up to him.


The initiative includes a manifesto devising a policy agenda for every department, numerous agencies and scores of offices throughout the federal government.


The policy thinking is more about what they DON’T want than what they do want.  Their energy agenda would rapidly increase oil and gas leases and production through the Interior Department to focus on energy security, and proposals include reforming offices of the Energy Department to end focus on climate change and green subsidies.


The Environmental Protection Agency would cut its environmental justice and public engagement functions, “eliminating the stand-alone Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights.”


According to Mother Jones, “the group suggests they…must make the institutions of American civil society hard targets for culture warriors, and proposes removing terms such as gender equality, DEI, abortion, and reproductive rights from “every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.”


This is just a taste of what they have in store.


Project 2025 – Who Is Behind It


It is spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation, a longtime thought leader and one of the most powerful organizations on the right.  The 100 organizations involved include mostly long-time right-wing stalwarts like ALEC, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Concerned Women for America, Turning Point USA (right wing youth recruitment), Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, and Liberty University, and some newer MAGA-oriented groups like Moms for Liberty and the America First Legal Foundation, which is led by Stephen Miller.  Leonard Leo and the Koch network are involved.


Project 2025: How


Paul Dans, the director of Project 2025, described the “playbook” in an interview with Semafor. “That’s really what our meat and potatoes work is — that playbook where we are doing diagnostics on each federal agency and filling the templates and preparing drafts of documents, whether they be executive orders, or perhaps even regulations, new guidance, statements and really a system for a new operator to come aboard.” It's nothing if not ambitious.


Project 2025: Where and When


The majority of the plan would be implemented during a transition period of 180 days.  (So they say.)


Left vs Right: How Big Things Get Done (or not)

So, it’s clear the progressive plan focuses on the policy ideas, and is very light on the execution, especially in terms of outreach.  Same as it ever was!  Caucus leader Pramila Jayapal (seen here) said that Democrats can “motivate people [to vote for Joe Biden] with [this] vision of progressive governance under Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and a Democratic White House.”  But how, in the six months or so before the general election? 


You don’t get a sense even of how they will use the agenda to “motivate” voters, much less how if they get the votes, they will move forward with enacting the agenda.  There’s no 180-day promise here.  They do say that their solutions are “popular, populist, and possible,” and I agree with that.  But that’s not enough in itself. 


How will they talk about it?  How will they talk about the GOP plan?  Who will they talk to?  They need to both motivate the base and reach out to new people.  The grassroots organizations involved have expertise with these things, but I wonder how much power they have to get it done here.  The caucus does involve people from all over the country, but I wonder how much voice the non-coastal people have.  I’d be more excited if I had seen even a skeleton plan about what comes next.


Meanwhile, the right leans on its traditional strengths of strategy, unity and long-term planning.  Having lots of money doesn’t hurt either.  They didn’t start this six months out; they’ve been working on it since the last Presidential election.  Though they don’t say it, they know that winning elections in today’s environment isn’t their most promising strategy.  They’re starting to lose their grip even in the South and West. 


Instead of Congress, they focus on re-electing Trump (though they don’t say that either), then sweeping in with a fully-baked plan for executive action that they can execute before anyone knows what hit them.  They figure if they get him in, they don’t need to worry about Congress, or even about who would authorize them to fire anyone and everyone in the Federal government, which is pretty chilling, but shouldn’t be a surprise.


What Is To Be Done?


The concept of the PPA is definitely the right idea for this moment.   They need to develop the right execution around communications, targeting the right voters in the right way, and organizing to motivate people to get out to vote for Biden and other Democrats and progressives.  This is the only way that the PPA can really help win the election, and of course, elect more of the right people to Congress to help bring the legislation home.


Jayapal acknowledged in an NBC interview that “this is going to be a tough election.”  About the PPA, she said, “If the progressive base is not excited and enthusiastic — and if they don’t feel like we are trying to earn their votes and that they are important — then I think the horrific idea of a second Donald Trump presidency could become reality…We cannot afford to let that happen. And we won’t.” 


With this statement, Jayapal makes it clear that progressives don’t share the Biden team’s sunny optimism that in the end they don’t even have to win people over, because people will hold their noses and vote for him, out of fear of Trump.  We know how this worked out for Hillary Clinton.  I’m glad the progressive caucus is taking responsibility to fight for this election, as they at least know they have to.


How can the agenda help us beat Trump?


Jayapal spoke only about motivating the progressive base.  That does matter, of course.


We must also use it to speak to Republicans and independents.  Despite what many progressives believe, there are definitely Republicans and conservatives who don’t love Trump or what he stands for.  There are also others who aren’t really tuned in and often don’t vote.  We need to get some of these people to win enough swing states to win the election.  It’s not a nice to have – it’s a must have. 


The GOP blames Biden for inflation because it happened during his term.  But they have no program for improving the economic outlook for their voters.  To win people, we need to promote the PPA, shine a light on the negatives of Project 2025, and show the contrast.    


Promote the PPA


The PPA’s emphasis on economic issues is the key.  For example, the housing ideas:  Prohibit landlords from discriminating against renters with rules to control and stabilize rents, overcome segregation, protect tenant organizing, and crack down on private equity and hedge fund acquisitions in rental housing.  Provide direct assistance to first time, working-class homebuyers.


Make ads with housing activists, renters at all levels, poor renters, and people who haven’t been able to buy a home, putting faces and numbers on how this would help.  Show and tell the effects ONE PERSON AT A TIME.  Include urban, rural and suburban people of all races.  Nothing would have a more visceral effect. 


You need a lot of customized messages for different constituencies and different Congressional races. 


You also need a wrapper to put all the messages in.  If there’s one thing the Caucus and the coalition should invest in, it’s this:  You need to hire the best communications people (not the usual Democrats, who should mostly be fired) to paint the picture about how Democrats and their progressive electeds/candidates are the ones who care and who will actually get these things done, if we give them the power.

Also, copy test ideas before putting them into production. I know some people on the left do that.


You need a better name than the Progressive Proposition Agenda too.


You should be able to have local groups or candidates plug in their own videos with the overall messaging.  It shouldn’t take much money to produce professional-looking videos like this, with guidance, though some funding would likely be necessary.


Have local organizations get the videos out through their social media.  Get coverage on local media.  Could the agenda, and/or electing more Democrats to Congress, help move these issues on the local or statewide level?  Talk about that.  You need to get people out on doors talking about it, finding out what the people in your area care about the most to help drive those local messages.


I would hope that the coalition could also support grassroots organizing, and maybe start by supporting groups to welcome new volunteers.  Left groups generally need A LOT of help with this.  Many have leaned on “virtual” organizing, but there’s no substitute for getting people together in person.  Taking advantage of the election and this campaign to grow a local  organization MUST involve decent intake and in person opportunities.


Shine a light on Project 2025


There are a lot of things in Project 2025 that wouldn’t stand up well to the light of day. Here’s a few examples:


When it comes to labor, Project 2025 starts with some nice-sounding language: “Give workers the support they need for rewarding, well-paying, and self-driven careers, and restore the family-supporting job as the centerpiece of the American economy.”  But they embrace many policies that would make it harder for workers to be treated fairly and to organize in unions.


In their view, workers love being independent contractors, and the DOL and NLRB should make it harder to determine that an “independent contractor” has been misclassified and should be considered an employee.  They would end the practice of considering companies that have an “affiliation” or “franchise” model, like a janitorial services or fast food company, to be a “joint employer” of local workers.  This is something that has improved working conditions for many workers across the country.   They also want to make it harder for workers to receive overtime pay.


Related to government personnel, they have a lot of ideas like being able to change the way job performance is appraised, fire people more quickly, cut pay and benefits, and make it harder for whistleblowers to survive.  Professional people and all workers would quickly see how problematic all this would be. 


The GOP has always had it in for public broadcasting.  Project 2025 says, “All Republican Presidents have recognized that public funding of domestic broadcasts is a mistake…The next conservative President must finally get this [defunding of public broadcasting] done and do it despite opposition from congressional members of his own party if necessary.”


Draw the contrast


It should be easy, in ads or op-eds, to draw the contrast between, for example, the PPA, which supports the DOL’s current regulations on joint employers and overtime pay, and how these have supported real workers’ fight for justice, and Project 2025’s ideas.

I'm not big on negative ads per se, but I think for some people, raising the alarm about the policy prescriptions in Project 2025 could be more effective than raising the alarm just about Trump.




4 views0 comments


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page